In search of self-confidence

Even successful people want more self-confidence. People who exude self-assurance easily influence others, get more promotions, earn more money, and seem to have more fun and success.

Some people naturally seem to have it; perhaps they were born lucky with the right kind of parents. However, no one gives you self-confidence; it is something each of us has to develop on our own. In any case, knowing a few strategies for improving self-confidence will ensure that you can improve confidence and reap the benefits. 

Everyone has a baseline of confidence. Some people have unshakable confidence built upon strong foundations; others find their confidence level is a bit shaky when faced with mistakes, criticisms, and failures. 

Lack of self-confidence afflicts a lot of people, but it’s usually hidden and denied. A false bravado does a poor job of replacing authentic self-belief; in fact, it’s a recipe for self-fulfilling failures. 

Often the problem goes undetected, as many people try to cover up insecurities by over-achieving. That doesn’t work because of the negative bias of the brain. We never forget errors and deficits. We carry around negative scripts from childhood, from parents, siblings, and school teachers. This undermines confidence. No one is immune; every one of us carries a kernel of under-confidence and self-doubt. 

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford, U.S. industrialist

False Confidence

Many seemingly successful people lack sensitivity to what is authentic confidence vs. hubris. At work, some of us become skilled at projecting “executive presence” and self-assurance. Our ability to influence others depends on coming across as secure, knowledgeable and expert. We walk around trying to convince others we’re confident, competent, and trustworthy.

Yet a large part of that is done in an effort to convince ourselves—to override that little voice inside that whispers “not good enough,” or “imposter,” or “maybe they won’t notice it’s not perfect.” We need to sort out authentic self-beliefs from left-over childhood scripts and be aware of when we’re compensating by buying into our own press releases.

Self-doubt and lack of self-confidence are pervasive and universal yet few of us admit to our insecurities (unless to our executive coach in private, and even then, guardedly). It forms in early childhood, during those formative first six years.

“Impatient parents, critical siblings, inept teachers all can turn the impressionable and moldable young child into someone lacking the basic tools for confidence. Yet this doesn’t condemn us. It just means we have to develop the required attributes for confidence as adults.” ~ Robert Kelsey, What’s Stopping You Being More Confident? (Capstone 2012)

Authentic Confidence

Even leaders aren’t immune. They often lack authentic self-confidence; instead, they cling to status symbols in an effort to prove their worth. In fact, many over-achievers are driven to suppress inner fears by outwardly proving to the world they are worthy. Overconfidence often stems from self-doubt and insecurities. It doesn’t make the lack of self-confidence go away. It is a fragile substitute that crumbles with criticism and mistakes.

Lack of self-confidence thrives on negative self-talk and messages that tell us we’re no good or not good enough. Such negative messages sabotage our best intentions when we give in to it. But then when we don’t give in to it, when we try to deny its existence, we end up over-confident, over-promising to others, and inauthentic. This isn’t a Catch-22. As experienced self-doubters, we get really good at covering up insecurities, but the smarter approach is to own them and work with them.

The Building Blocks of Self-Confidence

Two main qualities contribute to real self-confidence: self-efficacy and self-esteem.

We gain a sense of self-efficacy when we see ourselves mastering skills and achieving goals that matter. This is the confidence that, if we learn and work hard in a particular area, we’ll succeed; and it’s this type of confidence that leads people to accept difficult challenges, and persist in the face of setbacks.

This overlaps with the idea of self-esteem, which is a more general sense that we can cope with what’s going on in our lives, and that we have a right to be happy.

The Confidence-Achievement Link

“If you want confidence, get out there and do something. Achieve. Because nothing can replace the confidence of achievement. When it comes to confidence, achievement is gold, silver and bronze all rolled into one.” ~ Robert Kelsey, What’s Stopping You Being More Confident? (Capstone 2012)

Some people believe that self-confidence can be built with affirmations and positive thinking. There’s some truth in this, but it’s just as important to build self-confidence by setting and achieving goals―thereby building competence. Without this underlying competence, you don’t have self-confidence: you have shallow over-confidence, with all of the issues, upset and failure that this brings.

What’s stopping you?

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